Education: Notes & Sources

Education: Notes & Sources


Academic Achievement: Starting in the 2009-2010 school year, the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) was replaced by the Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) for students in grades 3 through 8, and the High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE) for 10th grade students.  Passing the reading and writing was required for graduation in 2012.  The classes of 2013 and 2014 must pass reading and writing HSPE assessments, plus one end-of-course (EOC) math exam.  Beginning with the class of 2015, students must pass reading and writing HSPE assessments, 2 math end-of-course exams, and 1 biology end-of-course exam.

Confidence interval (also called "error bar") is the range of values that includes the true value 95% of the time. If the confidence intervals of two groups do not overlap, the difference between groups is statistically significant (meaning that chance or random variation is unlikely to explain the difference).            

Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) is Washington’s pre-kindergarten program serving low-income and at-risk 3- and 4-year-olds and their families. It is very similar to Head Start (see below).

Federal Poverty Guidelines are issued by the Department of Health and Human Services and are used to determine financial eligibility for various federal, state, and local assistance programs. The guidelines are based on the Census Department’s federal poverty thresholds. For a family of 4, the federal poverty guideline in 2010 was $22,050; in 2011 it was $22,350; and in 2012 it was $23,050.

The Federal Poverty Threshold was adopted in 1964 as an “absolute measure” by which progress in the War on Poverty could be assessed. It is updated annually by the Census Bureau, and is used to calculate official population statistics on the number of Americans in poverty. Its usefulness has diminished over the past half century, as it almost certainly underestimates poverty in the United States.

Graduation rates:  Starting with the Class of 2011, Washington State is using a new method to calculate graduation rates. The new method conforms to standards of the U.S. Department of Education and tracks individual students’ enrollment over time. Following the same cohort of students, the graduation rate is the proportion of students starting 9th grade who graduate 4 years later.  In the past, Communities Count reported “on-time” graduation based on a criterion that did not follow individual students over time. Because different methodologies were used in these calculations, on-time graduation rates presented here should not be compared with rates published in prior Communities Count reports.

Head Start is a federally funded program that promotes school readiness for young children (birth through 4 years old) from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development.  Children receive nutritious, hot meals and health screenings; teachers encourage parents to extend their children’s learning at home. Early Head Start serves infants, toddlers, and pregnant women; Head Start serves 3- and 4-year-old children. 

High School Proficiency Exams (HSPEs) are comprehensive exams that measure the basic proficiency of high school students in reading and writing, and serve as the state’s exit exams in those subjects. Students are required to pass End-of-Course (EOC) exams in algebra 1/integrated math 1 and/or geometry/integrated math 2. And beginning with the class of 2015, they are also required to pass a biology EOC exam.

King County regions: The geographic boundaries of the four King County sub-regions (North, Seattle, East, and South) are defined by the aggregation of ZIP codes for adults and by the aggregation of school districts for teens.

Limited English:  Students from homes where English is not the primary spoken language risk academic failure in schools where instruction is in English.  On the basis of their performance on the Washington English Language Proficiency Test (WELPT), students are offered temporary support services for English Language Learners until they meet criteria established by the state.  Students who have not yet met those criteria are classified as having “limited English proficiency.” 


  • For Head Start eligibility, low-income is defined as family income at or below the federal poverty guidelines (see definitions above).
  • For analyses of 10th- grade students meeting academic standards and of on-time graduation rates, students are considered low-income if they were eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Families with income up to 185% of the federal poverty guidelines qualify.  In the 2010-2011 school year, children in a household of 4 with annual income up to $28,665 were eligible for free meals and those with an annual income up to $40,793 were eligible for reduced-price meals; in the 2011-2012 school year, children in a household of 4 with an annual income up to $29,055 were eligible for free meals and those with an annual income up to $41,348 were eligible for reduced-price meals.

Race/Ethnicity: Federal standards mandate that race and ethnicity (Hispanic origin) are distinct concepts requiring 2 separate questions when collecting data from an individual. "Hispanic origin" is meant to capture the heritage, nationality group, lineage, or country of birth of an individual (or his/her parents) before arriving in the United States. Persons of Hispanic ethnicity can be of any race. Communities Count's terms for racial/ethnic groups are derived from those used by the U.S Census Bureau in 2010.

  • Communities Count terms:  Hispanic, Non-Hispanic, White Non-Hispanic, Black, American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN), Asian, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (NHPI), White, and Multiple Race (Multiple). Persons of Hispanic ethnicity can be of any race and are included in other racial categories. Racial/ethnic groups are sometimes combined when sample sizes are too small for valid statistical comparisons of more discrete groups. 
  • 2010 Census terms: Hispanic or Latino, Not Hispanic or Latino, White alone (Not Hispanic or Latino),  Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, White, Some Other Race, and Two or More Races.


Kindergarten Readiness:  When data from all King County districts become available (probably at the end of 2013, Communities Count will use the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) to report on “whole-child” assessments of children’s readiness for kindergarten on 6 dimensions:  social and emotional development, physical development, cognitive development, language, literacy, and math.  Starting in the 2012-13 school year, WaKIDS is mandated for state-funded full-day kindergarten programs.

Publically Funded Early Education Programs (Head Start and ECEAP)

  • The estimated number of children without access to Head Start and ECEAP is based on the number of low-income children ages 3 and 4 years (for Head Start and ECEAP) and the number of low-income children from birth to 2 years of age for Early Head Start.
  • Eligibility Criteria :   
    • ECEAP accepts families at or below 110% of the federal poverty guidelines (for a family of 4 in 2011, $24,585; in 2012, $25,355).
    • For Head Start, at least 90% of enrolled families must be at or below 130% of federal poverty guidelines (for a family of 4 in 2011, $29,055; in 2012, $29,965), with priority given to those at or below 100% of federal poverty guidelines (for a family of 4 in 2011, $22,350; in 2012, $23,050). A maximum 35% can be between 100% and 130% of federal poverty guidelines.
    • Up to 10% of ECEAP and Head Start children can come from families with income above the usual limits. They may qualify based on specified developmental or environmental factors.

Statistical Significance: Unless otherwise noted, any difference mentioned in the text is statisticallysignificant (unlikely to have occurred by chance).

Data Sources

Academic achievement

  • Data on the percent of 4th graders who met state standards came from the Measurements of Student Progress (MSP), Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
  • Data on the percent of 10th graders who met state standards came from the High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE).
  • For both, see

Eligible children served by Head Start, ECEAP, and Early Head Start: Puget Sound Educational Service District (

English Language Learners as Percent of Total Enrollment. Randy I. Dorn. Educating English Language Learners in Washington State 2011-12.  Report to the Legislature (December, 2012). Appendix D.  

Graduation rates by school district are from Graduation and Dropout Statistics by County and School District, Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. See Web site at .

5-year adjusted cohort graduation rates for selected groups come from Randy I. Dorn. Graduation and Dropout Statistics Annual Report, 2011-2012 (March 2013).

Free or reduced-price meal eligibility: Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Washington State Report Card,, accessed 06/17/2015.

Other Sources

Early Education’s enduring benefits:

Federal poverty criteria:

Head Start and ECAP information:

Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (WAKids):  

Limited English proficiency definition and information from:

Maps of King County covering a wide range of topics can be accessed at  Maps most immediately relevant to Communities Count are under the headings of Community data & demographics, Public health, and Environment & natural resources, but other maps should be useful as well (farmers markets, transit routes, walking and biking routes, parks, traffic counts, etc.).

Quotes:  Communities Count interviewed 32 King County parents or guardians raising at least one child younger than 6 years of age.  We reached out to communities of color, recent immigrants, and residents with limited English proficiency to achieve a broad range of racial, cultural, and socioeconomic diversity. We interviewed both families with very low household income and those who earned up to median income (about $68,000 for a family of four in 2010). Family structures included single-parent households, couples living in consensual unions, married couples, and extended families.